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Natural nappy balm (vegan)

Difficulty: Beginner
Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 100 ml

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As all parents know, babies often get red and irritated skin around the nappy area. This is usually caused by either a reaction to urea or by yeast, due to the moist environment. As a mother myself, and wanting to use only natural and safe ingredients on my child, I formulated this nappy balm containing calendula, chamomile and manuka, which acts as both a barrier cream to prevent, and a healing balm to help soothe and calm irritated skin and rashes. I’ve been using this balm for nearly 15 years now, first as a nappy balm, and now I still make it as a soothing skin balm for sensitised or irritated skin.

Candelilla and carnauba wax
Candelilla wax (left) and carnauba wax (right).

Because most balms use bees wax, and are thus not suitable for vegans, I have decided to make this a vegan-friendly nappy balm. There just aren’t enough such balms out there! The waxes I’m using to substitute for the bees wax are candelilla and carnauba, two plant based waxes. Candelilla wax is derived from the leaves of the Candelilla shrub native to Northern Mexico, and the carnauba wax comes from the leaves of a palm native to Brazil. The combination of the two makes for a smooth and gentle balm, with just the right firmness.

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ONE: Weigh out the candelilla wax, carnauba wax, olive oil and castor oil into a small pot. Place it on the lowest setting on the stove, and wait until the wax has completely melted. This will take about 10 minutes or so. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up! Because, candelilla wax can be a bit grainy, I keep the stove setting on low so that the temperature is raised slowly and gradually, and due to the carnauba wax having a higher melting point, the candelilla wax will be kept above its melting point for a while to ensure a smooth end product. It is a bit like tempering chocolate, for those who cook and bake!

Olive oil is added to the balm, because it’s packed with antioxidants and has a balanced fatty acid composition, which will help restore and nourish the skin, especially since babies bottoms are usually wrapped up in a nappy and the skin doesn’t get to breathe. The combination of oils, butter and waxes is what will create the barrier between the delicate baby skin and the wetness of the nappy.

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TWO: Once the waxes have completely melted, take the pot off the stove and turn off the stove. The pot will stay warm long enough to keep the mixture liquid and prevent it from cooling down too quickly. Weigh out and stir in the shea butter until it too has completely melted. I’ve added shea butter, because it is a moisturising and conditioning butter with skin-soothing and calming properties due to the presence of several fatty acids and plant sterols.

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THREE: Lastly, add the calendula infused sunflower oil and give it another stir. Calendula, or pot marigold, is well-known for its skin healing properties. The calendula  flowers have been infused in sunflower oil, which is another beneficial skin oil with vitamin E and essential fatty acids.

FOUR: Make sure the oil/wax mixture is completely liquid and clear. If it has become cloudy and no amount of stirring is making it clear again, place it back on the stove again and stir. The cloudiness means it has cooled down to the point where the oil/wax mixture is solidifying. Keep stirring the mixture until is clear. You want the mixture to heat up just enough to become liquid, but not get too hot again.

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Add 5 drops each of chamomile and manuka essential oils. Because this is a balm for babies’ skin, I’m using a very low concentration, only 10 drops (0.5 ml) of essential oils to 100 ml of balm. Chamomile has both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and is considered to be a hypoallergenic, meaning it can calm and reduce skin irritants. Manuka is well known in New Zealand as a powerful skin healer for its antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral and antiseptic properties. Together, they will help prevent and reduce nappy rashes and infections.

Alternatively, if you don’t have manuka essential oil, you can also use tea tree essential oil, which has similar properties.

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FIVE: Give the mixture a good final stir before carefully pouring it into the pot. Let the balm set and cool down completely before placing the lid on, to prevent any condensation (= breeding ground for bacteria and fungi) forming on the lid. I usually leave it to set overnight.

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Natural nappy balm (vegan)

  • Difficulty: beginners
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Ingredients

  • 30 g olive oil
  • 10 g shea butter
  • 5 g castor oil
  • 15 g calendula infused oil
  • 2 ml wheatgerm oil
  • 5 g candelilla wax
  • 7 g carnauba wax
  • 5 drops chamomile essential oil
  • 5 drops manuka essential oil (alternatively tea tree essential oil)
  • 100 ml pot

Directions

  1. Weigh out the candelilla wax, carnauba wax, olive oil, castor oil in a small pot, and heat it on the lowest setting on the stove.
  2. Once the waxes have completely melted, and the oil/wax mixture is clear, take the pot off the stove and stir in the shea butter until it too has melted.
  3. Add the castor oil and calendula infused sunflower oil, and stir everything until the liquid is clear again.
  4. Add the essential oils and give it another good stir.
  5. Carefully pour the liquid balm into the pot and let it set and cool down completely before putting the lid on.

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Chamomile soap for sensitive skin

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1200 g soap or 10 bars

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Sensitive skins need extra care and won’t tolerate harsh detergents, fragrances and chemicals. And although there has been a trend towards natural skin care, many companies still use ingredients that are linked to skin irritation, dermatitis and allergic reaction. The two most common additives are SLS (sodium laurel sulfate) and SLES (sodium laureth sulfate) derived from coconut. They’re both surfactants, know to irritate skin, however, the latter is marketed as being natural, and you’ll find it in many of your ‘natural’ products.

“The whole “coconut-derived” or “from coconut oil” or whatever verbiage you see on the label is a marketing gimmick to make you believe that somehow the ingredient is more natural.”

https://www.bewell.com/blog/sodium-lauryl-sulfate-from-coconut-is-it-safer/

When you make your own soap, you control the ingredients and what goes into the soap. In this soap, I have used only natural ingredients and it is probably one of the mildest soaps I have ever made, with a pH close to 7.5 (neutral pH is 7), due to the high super fatting content and the blend of mild and nourishing oils, such as olive oil, sunflower oil, Shea butter and jojoba oil.

It also contains chamomile and calendula. Both are well-known to have skin healing, soothing and calming properties, and by using both an oil infusion and essential oils, I have tried to maximise these benefits in the soap.

Although I don’t advise to use soap on infants under 12 months, this soap is mild enough to use on toddlers and those with sensitive skin prone to allergic reactions.

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If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

To make this soap, I first had to infuse my oil with the goodness of chamomile and calendula to reap the maximum benefits of these skin healing flowers. I filled a jar with dried chamomile flowers and calendula flowers (not just the petals) and topped it up with sunflower oil, which is full of skin nourishing vitamins, especially vitamin E. I left the jar to infuse for about a month on my window sill, using the natural warmth of the summer sun to provide the heat.

If you have never infused oils before, here’s a handy guide to infusing oils, or alternatively you can buy calendula infused oil and chamomile infused oil from Pure Nature.

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ONE: Prepare your lye. Make sure you are wearing protective gear to protect your eyes and skin from any splashes! Measure out your water in a small heat proof jug or beaker. In a separate small beaker or container, weigh out the caustic soda. Then, carefully pour the caustic soda into the water, while stirring constantly until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the liquid is clear. Add 2 teaspoons of sodium lactate. This is a natural additive, which will help to harden the soap.

 

TWO: In a separate large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and shea butter. Either heat in the microwave (if using a Pyrex jug) or on the stove (if using a pot), until the oil and butter has completely melted.

I’ve added shea butter to the recipe because it is known to be anti-inflammatory and helps to soothe and balance the skin. Great for sensitive skin!

Once your oils are melted, add the olive oil, castor oil, and last, your infused sunflower oil. You want to add the infused oil last, when the oil/butter mixture is not too hot to preserve all the goodness in the infused oil.

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THREE: Make sure you are still wearing your protective goggles and gloves for this next part. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, carefully add it to the oils and then using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified (does not separate).

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FOUR: Add the chamomile essential oil and keep mixing with the stick blender until the soap mixture has thickened to a medium trace.

There are basically two main types of chamomile essential oil used in aromatherapy, the clear coloured Roman chamomile liquid and the blue coloured German chamomile liquid. Both are soothing, calming and healing, but whereas the Roman chamomile works mainly on the psychological, the German chamomile does the same for the physical. German chamomile soothes, heals and calms the skin and upset tummies, whereas the Roman chamomile soothes and calms the stressed mind. However, because the mind and body are undoubtedly interlinked, many physical illnesses can be traced back to psychological problems, such as stress, and vice versa. Physical illnesses have an effect on the mind. So usually I like to use Roman chamomile essential oils, which is calming on both body and mind, and use the German chamomile for exclusive skin related problems, such as nappy rash.

In this soap I used a Roman chamomile essential oil dilution in jojoba oil to boost the properties of the already infused oil in the soap, rather than using a pure essential oil, since chamomile essential oils are very expensive. Alternatively, if you do want to use pure essential oil, you only need about 1 ml because of its potency.

 

FIVE: Pour or scoop the soap into your mold. You can either use a loaf mold or one with cavities. The recipe yields approximately 1200 g of soap which will fill a regular loaf mold or make for about 10 round soaps of 120 g each.

Sprinkle some chamomile and/or calendula flowers on the top.

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SIX: Keep the soap in the mold for a few days to harden. Carefully unmold and let the soaps cure for a further 10-12 weeks. Because of the higher than usual amount of soft oils, the soaps need a longer curing time to harden completely. As with all soaps, the longer the curing time the better the soap!

Chamomile soap

  • Difficulty: intermediate
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Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 450g olive oil
  • 200g coconut oil
  • 100g shea butter
  • 200g calendula and chamomile infused sunflower oil
  • 50g castor oil
  • 130g caustic soda
  • 250 ml water
  • 2 teaspoons sodium lactate
  • 50 ml Roman chamomile in jojoba oil 3% dilution
  • dried chamomile flowers

Directions

  1. Measure out 250 ml of water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. Weigh out the caustic soda and carefully add it to the water, avoiding any splashes. Gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the lye water is clear.
  2. Add 2 teaspoon of sodium lactate to the lye water. Set the lye aside to cool down.
  3. In a large heat proof Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and shea butter. Heat in microwave (if Pyrex jug) or stove (if pot) until all the oil and butter has melted.
  4. Add the olive oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and shea butter, and give it all a quick stir.
  5. Add the infused oil and give it another quick stir.
  6. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, carefully add the lye to the oils.
  7. Using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified.
  8. Add the chamomile essential oil and keep stick blending until the soap mixture has thickened to a medium trace.
  9. Pour the soap into the mold and sprinkle some dried chamomile flowers on top.
  10. Leave the soap to harden for several days.
  11. After 2-3 days, check if the soap is firm enough to unmold. Remove from mold and leave to dry for another couple of days, before cutting into bars. The bars will need further curing for about 10-12 weeks until ready for use.